…not a nut roast in sight
Words Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
It’s December, month of all things hearty. But that needn’t mean meaty. With seasonal winter squash, parsnips, pumpkins, carrots and swede all at their peak right now, and the capital bursting at the seams with delicious veg-focused options, we’ve dug deep (sorry) for some of the best root veg dishes the capital has to offer. Think butternut and sage wellingtons rolled in toasted chestnuts, honey-laced golden squash with Grana Padano, and celeriac schwarma scattered with crispy onions. We’ll take that over a dry serving of turkey any day.
Championing vegetarian cuisine since 1989, The Gate’s roots in Hammersmith have spread out across the capital to include locations in Islington and Marylebone, with a fourth restaurant due to open in leafy St. John’s Wood in 2019. The Gate pairs simple, stripped-back interiors with an exclusively vegetarian menu, drawing influences and flavours from Persia and Indo-Asia. Their upcoming festive menu sings from a more traditional hymn sheet and is guaranteed to leave you feeling merry and guilt-free. Try the chestnut and caramelised parsnip terrine, accompanied by a vibrant cranberry and orange compote, followed by a main of butternut and sage wellington, rolled in Christmassy chestnuts and served with a thick cep reduction sauce.
Nestled in Clerkenwell, an area not short on foodie behemoths – we’re looking at you, St John – Luca has been delighting Londoners with its handsome 50s-inspired interior and classy fare since opening in 2017. Pairing Italian sensibilities with seasonal British produce, The Clove Club boys have birthed a unique love-child of the two cuisines, even coining the term Britalian. As you pass the sleek bar nestled in the entrance (a destination in itself), the space opens out into the gorgeous main dining room with its art deco fittings and decadent leather booths, bathed in the light from the floor-to-ceiling glass wall out back. Like an autumnal walk along an Italian promenade, the delicate pumpkin main sees roasted wedges of the fleshy, golden squash wrapped in a warm shawl of honey and spice, the Grana Padano foam washing over the tastebuds like a salty sea breeze.
88 St John St, Clerkenwell, EC1M 4EH
No foray into the world of vegetables would be complete without a mention of the man with the verdant touch, Yottam Ottolenghi. His latest outpost Rovi, in London’s Fitzrovia, is helmed by Neil Campbell, ex-Head chef of the now defunct veggie temple, Grain Store. The space feels like green-fingered Yottam has taken a cutting of his Islington deli and nurtured it in a rich compost of marble, geometric lines and plum upholstery. The menu reads like a love letter to the humble root vegetable, perfumed with Middle Eastern exoticism. The celeriac schwarma sees the overlooked vegetable turn king: slow-cooked over flames to a deep, nutty richness, piled into a pillowy pita and adorned with a crown of crispy onions. Finish with the beetroot and chocolate fondant, the rich earthiness of the molten cake tempered with a hint of chilli and a deliciously light cloud of creme fraiche ice cream.
Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Sophie is a freelance fashion, lifestyle and travel writer. An alumna of the University of Manchester, where she earned a BA in English Literature, Sophie went on to work at Conde Nast Traveller. She is a fervent North Londoner and happiest curled up with a book.